When you start building or upgrading a PC, you’re going to need to figure out how to cool it, either by air or liquid. So you’ll start researching and will come across water blocks, which then leads you to the following questions: what is a water block, how does it work, where can you get them and what are they made of? Well don’t worry because these questions will be answered.
If you’re short on time and need an answer quickly, we recommend the Corsair Hydro X Series XH305i Hardline Water Cooling Kit or the equally great EKWB EK-Quantum Velocity CPU Water Block.
What Is A Water Block?
If you don’t know already, a water cooling block is the water version of a heat sink. Basically, it works by passing cool water over the CPU and other components to absorb the heat, then the heated water is moved away, and replaced by new cool water. This happens in a continuous cycle, to ensure that the CPU is cooled and does not overheat.
So the block is the component that houses the tubes that the water passes through. A full water cooling system may also have additional fans, tubes and even radiators.
Normally if you were using a standard heat sink, you would have thermal paste on the CPU, then a heat sink attached to the paste, with a fan or cooler attached to the heat sink.
Then the fan or cooler would draw out the heat from the CPU and push the hot air outside the PC case, while other fans or coolers draw in cool air. This process keeps cool air circulating inside the PC, to ensure the CPU doesn’t overheat.
How Does A Water Block Work?
So how does a computer water block actually work? The CPU generates heat on its surface, this has to be drawn away to prevent damage.
The lower portion of the water cooling block has a walled path around it, the middle of it cut out. Since the center is hollow, it works as a heat exchange chamber, the volume of which can be increased.
This can be increased by manually adjusting the size to maximise the heat exchange. Water then circulates around the walled path and cavity, drawing in heat via thermally conductive plates.
The hot water is then taken out of the water block and fresh cool water is brought in. This process keeps the CPU at an optimal temperature and helps to extend its life.
What Are Water Blocks Made Of?
Water blocks are made from different materials. Most bases are made of copper, though aluminium is available. While the bases are typically only the two metals, the tops of computer water blocks can be made of metal (copper, aluminum or brass), acrylic or acetal.
Copper and aluminum are the strongest by far and can be better with heat transfer, as they provide more surface area which contacts the cooling liquid.
They are, however, subject to oxidation and discoloration. Also due to their opacity, they do minimize the lighting options you will have.
Acrylic on the other hand, since it is transparent, works great with lighting systems. It also provides a clear view of the water blocks components, which can be handy if you need to keep an eye on them.
However acrylic, while strong, can be quite brittle. You’ll want to be careful to not overtighten the fasteners as this can cause it to crack.
How Long Do Water Blocks Last?
Typically water cooling blocks can last over 12 months, but it is generally recommended they are inspected every 6 months. Water blocks can be prone to leaking, so you will want to check this regularly to ensure it is in full working order.
The best way to keep your water blocks lasting for a long time is knowing how to clean them and what issues to look out for.
Some signs your water cooling block needs to be cleaned are: the copper has lost its shine, you can visually see contaminants in the water and it isn’t functioning as efficiently as it should.
Cleaning it is an easy task, but it will be time consuming. You will need to be patient and treat all the parts gently.
The process will involve draining the computer water block, disassembling it and soaking the parts in water and soap. You’ll then want to gently scrub the parts with a brush before you rinse them, being sure to remove all traces of soap.
Then you’ll need to rinse them a few times with distilled water, before you can reassemble and put it back in your PC.
How Much Do The Water Blocks Cost?
Computer water blocks range in price, depending on the materials they’re made of, the complexity of their build and the manufacturer.
Typically acrylic is cheaper than metal, but the metal water blocks are more durable and efficient.
You can see the difference in prices between these two options: the Corsair Hydro X Series XH305i Hardline Water Cooling Kit or the cheaper EKWB EK-Quantum Velocity CPU Water Block.
Final Words About PC Water Block Cooling
Water cooling blocks are a great option to cool your PC and knowing that you know what they are made of, make sure you buy the right one for your rig.
The good thing is that you can buy full kits like the Corsair Hydro X Series XH305i Hardline Water Cooling Kit.
Alternatively you can buy singular components like the EKWB EK-Quantum Velocity CPU Water Block.
One of the great parts about a computer water block is it can be lit with RGB LED’s, which adds extra emphasis to your rig’s overall aesthetic.
So now, if people ask you what is a water block and how does it work, you should be able to answer with ease. All in all water cooling blocks are fantastic additions to any gaming PC.